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Chicago White Sox - 2007 Team Preview
by Keith Glab,
March 28, 2007

Listen to Keith and Tony's complete AL Central Roundup here
2006 Record - 90-72, 3rd Place AL Central
2006 Runs Scored - 868
2006 Runs Allowed - 794
Pythagorean Projection - 88-74

White Sox GM Kenny Williams made some pretty unpopular moves this offseason.  Then again, so too did Florida GM Larry Beinfest during the previous winter.  The Marlins, of course, treaded water in the standings while lowering their payroll and positioning themselves much better for the future.  Have the White Sox done the same?

Moving Freddy Garcia definitely helped the salary issue, and a host of new young pitching that includes Gavin Floyd, Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, Nick Masset, and Andy Sisco provides the franchise with a very promising future.  So the real questions are whether the Sox can win another 90 games this season and whether that level of performance will be enough to get them back into the playoffs.

2006 Starter -
AJ Pierzynski
Projected 2007 Starters -
AJ Pierzynski

Kenny Williams brought in Toby Hall because Pierzynski couldn't hit a southpaw if he were dressed up like Michael Barrett.  Being his usual amiable self, Pierzynski made it clear how upset he would become should he fall into a straight platoon with Hall.  Lucky for AJ, Hall will miss the entire 2007 season with a torn labrum, and either good-arm/no-hit Gustavo Molina or bad-everything Wiki Gonzalez will find themselves backing up Pierzynski.  Legitimate prospect Donny Lucy could be ready to contribute later in the season.

First Base
2006 Starter -
Paul Konerko
Projected 2007 Starter -

Last year, Paulie hit for a higher average and less power than we're used to seeing.  His overall value has been steady over the past three seasons, however.  He's actually hit 30 more bombs at home than on the road in that 3-year span, which might partly explain the modest hometown discount Konerko gave the Sox last offseason.  Having just turned 31, Konerko should have several more 35-HR/.280 AVG seasons left in him so long as he stays at The Cell.

Second Base
2006 Starter -
Tadahito Iguchi
Projected 2007 Starter
- Gooch

Every spring, Ozzie Guillen becomes obsessed with moving Tad Iguchi down to a run-producing slot in the batting order.  It may actually happen this season, if only to let Scott Podsednik and newly acquired Darren Erstad bat 1-2 versus righties.  Now slightly past his prime, Iguchi does not appear likely to ever approach the 20-30 HR power he exhibited in Japan.  Even though Guillen thinks that Iguchi is the greatest thing since Brazilian meat restaurants, he's merely a solid all-around player, and no Good Guy greater personified a drop in sound fundamental play from the 2005 Championship club.

Third Base
2006 Starter -
Joe Crede
Projected 2007 Starter
- Crede

Kudos to Kenny Williams.  How many General Managers sign 29-year olds coming off career years to ridiculous long-term contracts?  Crede still doesn't walk often enough to deserve such a deal, and his back is a question mark to boot.  His exquisite defense and moderate clutch abilities make him a useful player, but there's no doubt he played over his head last year, and little doubt that incumbent Josh Fields could out-slug him this year if he were given the chance.  A trade is in order.

2006 Starter -
Juan Uribe
Projected 2007 Starter -

"Uribe's taken more walks this spring than he has in the past two years," quipped Guillen in late March.  That's a compliment wrapped in an insult, of course.  Uribe's career OBP will likely remain below .300 after this year, which seems like a steep price to pay for his above average defense.  Legal distractions from the Dominican Republic could adversely affect his production and playing time this season as well.  Alex Cintron is a capable backup, but you probably wouldn't want him as the everyday starter should Uribe find himself in an overseas jail this summer.

2006 Starters -
Jermaine Dye, Scott Podsednik, Brian Anderson, Rob Mackowiak 
Projected 2007 Starters -
Dye, Podsednik, Darren Erstad, Anderson, Mackowiak

Asher was right.

Well, almost.  In 2005, the Chicago outfield scored a +46 in the Plus/Minus defensive system, good for the second best mark in baseball.  Last year, they tallied -43, the third worst mark around.  So why wasn't Asher completely correct when he repeatedly chimed that the defensive loss of Aaron Rowand would offset the offensive gains from Jim Thome?  Because Rowand's Phillies were one of the teams that actually fared worse than the Sox did.  Even if Rowand is still outstanding defensively, he didn't play enough to save a bad outfield defense.  Had the White Sox not consummated that deal, they would still have had a poor defense, but they might have had some disastrous Carl Everett/Ross Gload type of platoon at designated hitter.

With Darren Erstad replacing Rob Mackowiak as Brian Anderson's center field platoon partner and Scott Podsednik playing like he once again has the groin of a 20-year old, Chicago will field a much stronger defensive ballclub.  But ironically, Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy were the team's most extreme flyball pitchers, and neither of them will be able to benefit. 

On offense, there's no way that Jermaine Dye comes close to last year's numbers.  But Pods is due for another excellent odd-numbered year, and they aren't likely to get less offensively out of the center field spot than they did last year.  I even saw Anderson hit a curveball in spring training.  The curveball wasn't major league caliber, but it's still progress for this one-speed hitter.          

Designated Hitter
2006 Starter - Jim Thome
2007 Starter- Thome

Jim Thome sat out for a 3-game stretch and a 4-game stretch last summer because of aches and pains.  During those seven games (3 vs Texas, 3 vs Kansas City, 1 vs. Baltimore), the White Sox went 3-4. Ozzie Guillen wants to give Thome more days off this year to prevent such stretches.  Thome can be a major force off the bench on days when he is just resting, rather than days when he is hurting too much to even pinch hit.  This tactic should also benefit the Sox by giving Joe Crede and his ailing back several DH games throughout the year.  Pablo Osuna, Alex Cintron, or Rob Mackowiak could fill in at third base.  

2006 Starters -
Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras, Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez
Projected 2007 Starters -
Buehrle, Garland, Contreras, Vazquez, John Danks

Buehrle, Garland, and Vazquez are each in their prime, and are likely to improve upon disappointing 2006 campaigns. 

The average home run off of Mark Buehrle traveled 379 feet last year, according to  That was the 3rd lowest average in baseball.  This tells me that many of Mark's 36 homers allowed barely cleared the fences.  With a little better luck in that regard, a slightly better defense behind him, and a decision to pitch low and away more often, Buehrle should be back to winning 16 games a season.  Oh, and it's a contract year for him as well.

Defense really is a big deal for guys like Garland and Buehrle.  Opponents hit .317 when putting the ball in play against Garland last year, compared with just a .263 mark in 2005.  Better defense and better luck should return Garland to the absolute league average pitcher he was from 2002-2004.

Vazquez had an FIP under 4.00 last season, and held opponents to a .217 batting average in the first four innings of his starts.  With a four-pitch arsenal, Vazquez has no reason to struggle as much as he did the third time around in the order.  Were the AL Cy Young Award not perennially decided before the season even begins, Vazquez would prove an excellent sleeper candidate.

I wrote about Jose Contreras' bizarre history when he won the Inaugural Mark Redman Award.  I failed to mention the Cuban import's nagging injuries throughout the season, which might have contributed to his atrocious second half numbers.  But even if we use that excuse, Contreras is at least 35-years old, and we certainly cannot expect him to replicate that 20-2 record between the 2005 and 2006 All Star Breaks.

John Danks may have the fifth starter's job now, but the 21-year old will be Boone Loganed back to the minors by May.  Hopefully by then, Gavin Floyd, Charlie Haeger, Heath Phillips, Gio Gonzalez, or Lance Broadway will have shown enough to shore up that #5 spot.  The Sox rotation has been eerily healthy over the past two seasons, however, and odds are good that a couple of these half-dozen prospects will need to step up big this season.    

2006 Options -
Bobby Jenks, Matt Thornton, Brandon McCarthy, Neil Cotts, David Riske Cliff Pollitte
Possible 2007 Options -
Jenks, Thornton, Mike MacDougal, Andy Sisco, David Aardsma

This is ostensibly the most improved area on the White Sox.  Pitching Coach Don Cooper is developing a reputation for getting high-ceiling relievers to reach their potential after snagging Matt Thornton and Mike MacDougal off scrap heaps last season.  Sisco and Aardsma certainly fit the great-stuff/poor results mold, and it's reasonable to expect one of the two to undergo a similar transformation.  This easily ranks as the hardest-throwing bullpen in baseball, and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger would act as a welcome change of pace out of the bullpen should he win a role there.  

Final Word 

Losing two flyball pitchers does not devastate a team that plays in easily the most prolific home run ballpark in the majors today.  Shoring up the bullpen and the outfield defense makes up for the lack of an established fifth starter.  Even though most of the White Sox' position players are on the wrong side of 30, the team is hardly Mets or Giants old.  Another 90 wins or so is a very reasonable expectation for this team.

Will that be enough to win the AL Central?  No, it won't.  That division is universally recognized as the strongest in baseball.  With four competitive teams, it's likely that one of the three younger squads will have the kind of magical season that the Sox enjoyed in 2005 and that the Tigers enjoyed last year.  But can the Sox win the Wild Card?  The fourth playoff team is most likely going to come from the East, since those teams get to beat up on Baltimore and Tampa Bay all year long.  But don't count out the White Sox, who could still prove too difficult to overcome.     

Questions? Concerns? Comments? Keith can be reached at

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